The White House claimed today that it had no prior knowledge that a senior IRS official was going to admit and apologize for a juicy scandal with a planted question at a May 10 American Bar Association event.
Press secretary Jay Carney also claimed that President Obama had complete ignorance of the investigation as it was unfolding because senior staffers at the White House chose not to tell him.
“There were conversations. After White House counsel was notified, and told senior staff members, there were conversations between staff here and Treasury about when — you know, what was the timing going to be; what would the — would the findings likely be in anticipation of that. But there was no fore-knowledge of when this — when this happened,” Carney said.
“Kathy Ruemmler, the White House counsel, was made aware the week of April 22nd. I’ve now gotten the specific date of April 24th. It does turn out, and we looked at this, that there was a part of this notification process of a series of I.G. — pending I.G. matters that was conveyed to — communicated to someone on the staff of the White House counsel’s office, but that information did not reach Kathy Ruemmler until the following week.”
It was pointed out to Carney that in a briefing last week about he never mentioned that the chief of staff and others were notified.
“Well, I — I think I said that White House counsel knew. I think I said that I didn’t know until Friday, but I didn’t — you know, I’m getting this information to you now. The point is counsel knew on April 24, White House counsel did. And she informed some other senior staff. And with that — in that — in informing, she also made clear that it was her view and others shared this view that there was not a need in a situation like this, with an ongoing investigation or audit, that the president should be notified,” he said.
“There were discussions here. And as I said, there were conversations from his — White House chief of staff’s office with general counsel at Treasury and the chief of staff’s office at Treasury about the timing — anticipated timing of the release of the report and the potential findings. But, there was, again, the — the point was no — no intervention, no action, because it would be entirely inappropriate to do anything except ultimately wait for what the findings would be.”
Carney characterized the scandal as “there were line employees at the IRS who improperly targeted conservative groups with some of the words.”
“I mean, nobody’s been more outraged by the reported conduct here than the president of the United States,” the spokesman added. “The outrage from the president came within hours after the release of the report.”
Noting that “there were public reports that this stuff was going on almost a year before the presidential election,” Carney was grilled by reporters about why they’ve claimed the notification timeline they have.
Carney referred reporters to the Treasury Department. “I don’t know anything more about it than what I read in the paper,” he said.
“Our feeling has been from the beginning, since we were notified of the impending completion of the I.G. report that we would refrain from commenting on, you know, reports about draft language, reports about what may or may not be in the findings of the I.G. until the I.G. actually published his report,” he added.